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MORRISTOWN, NJ JANUARY 2011 – The Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute at Morristown Memorial Hospital is the first site in New Jersey to perform the new “Cryoballoon” ablation procedure to treat patients suffering from atrial fibrillation, a form of irregular heartbeat – an approach that is literally as different from the traditional method of treatment as ice is to fire.
Electrophysiologists at Gagnon on January 11, 2011 used the Arctic Front® Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter system to treat a 61-year-old man from New Jersey who had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the system is the first and only Cryoballoon in the United States indicated to treat drug refractory recurrent symptomatic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (PAF), a serious heart rhythm disorder that affects millions of Americans.
Cryoballoon treatment is a procedure that uses a balloon of extreme cold to efficiently create lesions around the pulmonary veins, which is the source of erratic electrical signals that cause the irregular heartbeat. Until now, PAF has been treated by using radiofrequency, or extreme, focused heat to burn that tissue, or with drug therapy.
USING COLD INSTEAD OF HEAT…
While both methods are minimally invasive, performed through a catheter, Cryoballoon technology is designed to be more thorough. The radiofrequency method involves doctors using focused points of heat to burn the tissue point-by-point at the mouth of the vein. While largely effective, radiofrequency can sometimes miss areas of the tissue still transmitting erratic electrical signals, causing the problem to recur later. Cryobaloon treatment, however, works by inflating a catheter balloon with liquid nitrogen, which adheres to the entire circumference of the opening at once, freezing it.
The Cryoballoon treatment can be performed as quickly, or quicker than radiofrequency procedures, with a reduction in specific risks. The act of freezing the tissue may be less disruptive to the heart than the radiofrequency method. The procedure has shown an improvement over drug therapy, with nearly 70 percent of patients treated with Arctic Front achieving treatment success at 12 months, compared to 7.3 percent of patients treated with drug therapy only, according to the clinical trial which served as the basis for FDA approval.
“The use of cold instead of heat represents a whole new approach to the way we treat paroxysmal atrial fibrillation,” said Jonathan Sussman, MD, electrophysiologist with Gagnon’s Gagnon’s Cardiac Rhythm Management program, who performed the inaugural procedure. ”Not only is cryoablation on the opposite extreme in temperature, but it also offers a more stable and thorough method of treatment, which in the end will give patients peace of mind knowing that atrial fibrillation is less likely to recur and they will have less risk of side-effects.”
Atrial fibrillation is the most common and among the most undertreated heart rhythm disorders in America. Approximately three million Americans are estimated to have the disease, and about 40 percent do not exhibit symptoms and may be under-diagnosed. Half of all diagnosed atrial fibrillation patients fail drug therapy, and if left untreated patients have roughly a five times higher risk of stroke and an increased chance of developing heart failure. Additionally, since atrial fibrillation is often age-related, as the U.S. population continues to grow older, the need for more effective treatment options is escalating.
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (PAF) is a type of atrial fibrillation in which irregular heartbeats in the upper chambers start and stop suddenly on their own, usually for minutes or days at a time. Unlike persistent atrial fibrillation, which can be shocked back into a normal rhythm, PAF requires a more direct treatment, usually surgery.
Part of Atlantic Health, Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute includes cardiovascular services at Morristown Memorial and Overlook Hospital, in Summit. This includes a full range of cardiac diagnostic testing procedures as well as specialized centers that offer superior hospital services, such as emergency cardiac care, cardiac surgery and heart wellness educational programs. Morristown Memorial and Overlook Hospital are the only two facilities in New Jersey to receive the American College of Cardiology Foundation and American Heart Association’s ACTION Registry®-GWTG™ 2009 Gold Performance Achievement Award for improvement in the treatment of heart attack patients.
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